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Voice of the consumer: Prepare now for mandatory 719 area-code dial, coming this fall

Jenna Middaugh
Jenna Middaugh(KKTV)
Published: Apr. 19, 2021 at 7:24 AM MDT
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Our 11 News Call For Action team pens a weekly column for our news partner The Gazette. Previous columns can be found here.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - A big update is coming later this year that will change how you dial local phone numbers.

Beginning Saturday, April 24, the state and various phone companies are asking people with area code “719” to start dialing that code, even when making local calls. If you forget and only dial the regular seven-digit phone number, the call will still go through.

However, on Oct. 24, people with the 719 area code will be required to dial that code along with the phone number or their call might not be completed.

The reason for the change: Last July the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved “988” as the three-digit abbreviated dialing code to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. That number goes into effect July 16, 2022.

Advocates say this shorter number will help connect more people with resources.

“People remember three digits,” said Robert Werthwein, the director of Colorado’s behavioral health office. “If it’s not a medical emergency, it’s really important that we provide an avenue for individuals with behavioral health needs and crisis to have someone who’s trained in behavioral health to talk to.”

Since there are phone numbers in the 719 area code that start with “988-XXXX”, the FCC is ordering everyone to switch to 10-digit dialing, which means starting the phone number with the area code. If that wasn’t required and you started dialing “988,” phone companies wouldn’t know whether your call should be routed to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or if you’re still dialing.

In the six months between April 24 and Oct. 24, the state is recommending everyone check any equipment that has programmed dialing to make sure it’s set for 10-digit dialing. That includes things like life safety systems or medical monitoring devices, private branch exchanges (PBXs), fax machines, internet dial-up numbers, fire or burglar alarms, security systems or gates, speed dialers, call forward settings, and voicemail services. You should also go through the contacts in your phone to make sure all the numbers programmed have the area code included.

The state also recommends checking your website, personal and business stationary, advertising materials, personal and business checks, pet ID tags, and anything else that would have your personal or company phone number on it to make sure the area code is included.

This change is happening across the country. In Colorado, only the 719 and 970 area codes are impacted because they are the only two in Colorado that still contain areas where seven-digit dialing is allowed. The 720 and 303 area codes already require 10-digit dialing.

Even though this is a big change, a lot will stay the same. Your telephone number and area code will not change. The price of a call, coverage area, or other rates and services will not change; 911 and 211 will not be impacted.

You’ll also still be able to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 1-800-273-8255 (TALK), even after the “988” number is in effect.

Colorado also has its own crisis line. Call 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255. For more information, visit www.coloradocrisisservices.org.

Click here to read the original column on gazette.com.

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